Snow White & the Huntsman,
directed by Rupert Sanders
(Universal, 2012)

I wanted to see Snow White & the Huntsman primarily for Charlize Theron, who's clearly having a ball as the wicked witch. I also am always interested in seeing new versions of fairy tales, but factors such as Kristen Stewart made me nervous for this one.

It exceeded my expectations. Theron in particular was all that I wanted her to be. The gender issues raised by her character were fascinating; they could have built on that theme even more. I also found it very gratifying that this movie presented a fleshed-out version of the fairy tale, instead of following simple tropes like modernization, or flipping the "good" and "bad" characters around. No, they worked from the tale itself, added in a few things and kept it within the fairy-tale realm of the fantastic, which is my favorite place to be.

I also really appreciated how the romantic part of the story developed. Many stories where two guys are involved invariably make one of them either a type of person who is obviously wrong for the heroine -- foolish, boring, hateful, etc. -- or they make one of the guys the romantic unrequited-love type whose clearly dead-end relationship ambitions grow old fast. Snow White & the Huntsman presented both male leads as having issues and flaws and, while one of the relationships clearly had more potential, the other one stayed reasonable and was not allowed to encroach on the other man's character. Helpful to all of this was that the role of Snow White's love was kept understated, but vital, just as the fairy tale indicates. I expect some people will be dissatisfied with the secondary nature of the romance here, but I found it perfect for the tale.

Also, the truly disturbing elements of this film were handled very delicately -- they were present, but did not take over scenes or minds, simply allowing awareness without pushing shock value or crudeness. I genuinely respect that. Last but not least, this movie pleased me by being very, very pretty. The effects played wonderfully, the shots were lovely and the costumes, while I would have altered a few choices (such as the neckline of Stewart's gown at the end), were marvelous.

This is not to say the film had no problems. The writing fell down in several places, most notably in Snow White's inspirational speech and her last words to Ravenna, the wicked queen. Luckily, this is a largely visual film, so the weakness in the writing doesn't appear that frequently. The ending fell remarkably, and awkwardly, flat. It needed more lines, more direction, more of almost anything, really, in order to be a real resolution. This was the only time that Stewart actually bothered me. I really liked her acting in the first half of the film, likely due to the large amount of action. When she began having to deliver more lines, the poor writing let her down. This made her less likable, but I will hardly blame her for that. I feel like she did the best she could with what she was given. This applies to the ending, too -- her acting got insipid and a little ridiculous, but given what the director asked her to do and that the writers gave her nothing -- and even her costume here didn't work for her -- I cannot blame her. Again, I think she did all that she could and tried her hardest to deal with the bad situation this director ended on. The good news was that it is the end so it doesn't effect anything else.

In short, this movie has some serious faults. It made some odd choices and allowed specific issues to mar some key points. Nevertheless, I found it overall very enjoyable. Perhaps because I'm a very visual person and this film played up beautifully for my eyes, or perhaps simply because I found their attention and respect for the actual fairy-tale layer of their plot wonderful and refreshing, it gave me a lot of pleasure. Still, I think the problems will outweigh the good for a lot of people. On the other hand, as a great lover of fairy tales, I can tell you that I want to own this film someday. Plus, Theron's performance is unequivocally killer. The rest of the film could have been far worse and it still would have been worth seeing once, just for her.

review by
Whitney Mallenby

16 June 2012

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